Preliminary Roster Overview 2017: Baltimore Orioles – Second Base

For those who have been reading my posts, you may notice that there is a bit of a gap between this post and my last one on Chris Davis. School and other shenanigans have gotten in the way of my writing. I did warn you about this…anyways, lets get back to the task at hand.

What does a typical fan think of when they hear “second baseman”? Historically, second basemen have typically been fast, light hitting, good defensive players. Sure you have exceptions with regards to hitting such as Rogers Hornsby or Joe Gordon but that is was the “stereotypical” second basemen has been described as. As the years have passed, second base has evolved into a position where speed and light hitting are not necessary conditions to be successful at second base. Jeff Kent in the 1990s/2000s was not the quickest player or a great defensive second baseman, yet he went on to break the career home run record at second base (377). Robinson Cano has put up MVP type numbers at second base since 2009 that any position player would love to have. The point is, second base is not longer seen as the light hitting position. Rather, it is now a position where powerful offensive talent can hold their own.

baltimore-orioles-jonathan-schoop-slams-door-on-detroit-tigers

Jonathan Schoop doesn’t look like a typical second baseman. But he can handle his own.

The second baseman for the Orioles, Jonathan Schoop, has the promise to be an elite power hitter. Born on October 16, 1991 in Curacao, Schoop signed with the Orioles in 2008 as an international free agent. Originally a shortstop, Schoop was converted to a second baseman to make room for Manny Machado, who was drafted by the O’s in 2010. After the completion of the 2012 season, Baseball America ranked Schoop as the 3rd best prospect in the Orioles farm system (behind Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman) and 82nd best prospect in Baseball. If you look at the Baseball America page, you will see that each player mentioned only has a sentence blurb about them. Here is Schoops:

His power potential and infield actions are far beyond his brother Sharlon’s.

I read that as saying “he is better than his brother…but that’s it”. Not too bullish on his future it seems.

He first saw big league action in September of 2013, but only had 15 at-bats. To my recollection, we didn’t view Schoop as the future of second base. That season was the last year Brian Roberts was on the team, the O’s second baseman since 2001. Roberts was an all-star second baseman in the mid 2000s but injuries hammered him in the second half of his career. By 2013, Roberts was a shell of his former self and had a tough time staying healthy. And so after the season, he was released by the O’s.

Final remarks on Roberts. After the 2014 season, Roberts signed a one-year deal with the New York Yankees. He played 96 games with them before being designated for assignment on August 1 of that year. By August 9, Roberts was gone and retired at the end of the season. As luck would have it, I was at the game when Roberts made his first appearance to Camden Yards as a Yankee (Friday, July 11). To be honest, I forgot at the time that Roberts was with the Yankees, for when his name was announced in the starting lineup, I was completely taken off guard. Sure enough, in the top of the second inning, Roberts strode up to the plate with the Orioles playing his old “walk-up” tune in the background. What struck me most was how the fans reacted. Normally when a player who played for a team for a long time makes his first appearance after switching teams, he is usually greeted with cheers. The fans like to tell him “we haven’t forgotten you! Thank you for your production with our team!” Roberts didn’t get any of that. Half the fans didn’t react to him coming to bat. The other half booed; probably because (a) with the Yankees, and (b) they felt that Roberts was not trying to come back from his injuries while and Oriole. It was rather bizarre. I was one of the few O’s fans that stoop up and clapped for him as he came up to bat. And how did he respond? First pitch he saw, he belted it onto the concourse in right field for a home run. Talk about sending a message.

Once Roberts left Baltimore, there was some uncertainty as to what would happen at second base. Not wanting to explore the free agency market, the Orioles were seen as to having to choose between either Schoop at second base, or utility infielder Ryan Flaherty. As the article above indicates, fans were not that thrilled about the possibility of Schoop staring at second. Fans would have preferred to see him start the season in the minors and maybe get promoted midway through the season. That didn’t happen. Of the Orioles possibilities the following spring training (including free agent Jemile Weeks), Schoop was essentially the “last-one-standing” and so he won the starting job at second base. He has been the starting second baseman for the O’s ever since.

So what makes Schoop different from the stereotypical second baseman? If there is one word to describe Schoop best, I would say “power”. Entering is age 25 season, Schoop already has more career home runs than any Orioles second baseman by age 24

Through Age 24 Home Runs
Jonathan Schoop 57
Bobby Grich 25
Davey Johnson 17
Billy Smith 10
Jerry Adair 10
Jerry Hairston Jr. 9

In fact, he hit 25 home runs in 2016, the most home runs by an Oriole second baseman in a single season (mark previously held by Roberto Alomar in 1996 with 22). And not only does Schoop hit home runs, but he hits them with authority, i.e., these are not cheap home runs.

The following clip shows him hitting a home run projected to go 482 feet!

 

Then there is this home run he hit on Fathers day this past season (I was at that game and I don’t think I have ever seen (in person) a ball hit that deep to left field at Camden Yards. Like Davis at first, Schoop has unbelievable power. Unlike Davis however, Schoop hasn’t harnessed the ability to take a walk. He only walked 22 times last season (a career high for him) to give him an on-base-percentage (OBP) of .298 (which is poor). Its to the hitters benefit to take walks. It allows them to get on base more frequently and they will be less inclined to swing at bad pitches. Its my belief that in order for Schoop to take the next step in his offensive game, he needs to be more patient at the plate.

Defensively, Schoop is a solid. While not fast, Schoop has decent range for a guy his size (6’1″ and 225 lbs) and a steady glove (only eight errors last season). But Schoop’s main asset defensively is his arm. As stated earlier, Schoop came up in the minors as a shortstop, but was moved to second base to make room for Machado. To play shortstop, a player needs to have a strong arm (its the position with typical longest throw to first base in the infield). Basically, Schoop has a shortstop arm at second base. And where does this help him? It helps in turning double plays.

 

The common theme with these double plays is that Schoop was always covering second. That means he has to not only catch the ball (to record the out at second) but he has to quickly get rid of it by throwing it to first base (to record the second out). All of these double plays Schoop turned required a strong arm to complete.


 

If any last season was any indication, I predict that Schoop will hit 25-30 home runs and bat around .260-.270 (he batted .267 last year). What I hope for him to do is be more patient at the plate and take more walks. If I had to say, I say his walk rate improves a little a little this season (maybe 30 walks). But remember, he is only 25 so he has room to grow. In fact, his potential is high enough that I say in a few years (maybe 3 seasons), Schoop will be regarded as a top 5 Orioles second baseman of all time (he is already in top 10).

 

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About Mark

A graduate student who finds the time to write about baseball.
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